Oral cancer is cancer of the mouth.
Cancer - mouth; Mouth cancer; Head and neck cancer; Squamous cell cancer - mouth
Oral cancer most commonly involves the lips or the tongue. It may also occur on the:
Most oral cancers are a type called squamous cell carcinomas. These tend to spread quickly.
Smoking and other tobacco use are linked to most cases of oral cancer. Heavy alcohol use also increases your risk for oral cancer.
Other factors that may increase the risk for oral cancer include:
Men get oral cancer twice as often as women do, particularly men older than 40.
Sore, lump, or ulcer in the mouth:
Other symptoms that may occur with oral cancer include:
Your doctor or dentist will examine your mouth area. The exam may show:
Tests used to confirm oral cancer include:
X-rays and CT scans may be done to determine if the cancer has spread.
Surgery to remove the tumor is usually recommended if the tumor is small enough. Surgery may be used together with radiation therapy and chemotherapy for larger tumors. Surgery is not commonly done if the cancer has spread to lymph nodes in the neck.
Other treatments may include speech therapy or other therapy to improve movement, chewing, swallowing, and speech.
You can ease the stress of illness by joining a support group of people who share common experiences and problems. See cancer - support group.
Approximately half of people with oral cancer will live more than 5 years after they are diagnosed and treated. If the cancer is found early, before it has spread to other tissues, the cure rate is nearly 90%. However, more than half of oral cancers have already spread when the cancer is detected. Most have spread to the throat or neck.
About 1 in 4 persons with oral cancer die because of delayed diagnosis and treatment.
Oral cancer may be discovered when the dentist performs a routine cleaning and examination.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have a sore in your mouth or lip or a lump in the neck that does not go away within 1 month. Early diagnosis and treatment of oral cancer greatly increases the chances of survival.
National Comprehensive Cancer Network Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Head and Neck Cancers. National Comprehensive Cancer Network; 2009. Version 2.2009.
Posner M. Head and neck cancer. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 200.
Wein RO, Malone JP, Weber RS. Malignant neoplasms of the oral cavity. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund VJ, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery. 5th ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby Elsevier; 2010:chap 96.